Why did you choose that school?

With the upcoming Kee family move, we spent time in Ottawa this weekend. Kevin met his new colleagues, and the kids and I searched for a home (we bought one in the Glebe!) On Friday night, we were all invited to dinner at the current Dean of Arts’ house, and I had the opportunity to watch my kids in action with a room full of adults – professors and administrators! – who were brand new to them. I eavesdropped on one conversation that really got me thinking.

Jacob and Kathleen were asked which of the local public schools in Ottawa they would choose for next year. I thought of interrupting my conversation to reply, but instead, knowing that a university crowd is a fairly safe one, I watched.

Jacob explained that they would go to boarding school. He reported that he chose Lakefield because it had “better programs”, and he gave the example of outdoor education. He went on to tell the story of last week’s river rescue when he had to wear a wetsuit and jump in rapids and be saved, and do the saving of another boy as well. He said it was those kinds of extras that made him choose Lakefield.

Admittedly, I was relieved to hear this. That focus on the outdoors was exactly what we hoped for with his choice. (Is it bad to admit that I was pretty proud of his confident reply?)

For a while the conversation turned to what the adults knew of Lakefield – that Prince Andrew went there and it was near Peterborough. One woman from Spain added that the King of Spain had also attended Lakefield. When Kathleen expressed surprise at that, she was asked about her decision. Now Kathleen hasn’t started yet, and I had no idea how she would handle the question about school choice. So I watched, ready to jump in, if needed.

She turned the attention back to them by asking, “Have you ever been to camp?” For a while, the conversation turned to camp, and she smiled and nodded. Then she went on to tell them the following (more or less):

Kathleen: Well, Lakefield is a lot like camp. We live on the water and do a lot of fun activities. Plus, everyone knows everyone.   It’s a great place.

She smiled confidently (and I had that Mother pride moment again). I later heard one woman quietly ask Kathleen, “How often will you get to see your parents?” And she lit up. “Oh. Every 2-3 weeks or so. It is just like being away for camp.”

There are moments in life when, as a Mother, you know you’ve made a good decision, and I felt that then. For starters, we gave our kids a fair amount of autonomy in the process of choosing a high school, focusing on finding a school that uniquely suits them. We took some heat for that, and for allowing them to choose boarding. So as I watched them own their decision, share their enthusiasm for their boarding school experience, and handle themselves with grace and confidence, I have to say it: I felt proud.

As the Executive Director for 97 CAIS schools, I sometimes worry about how all of our students would justify their school choice. But then I imagine our 50,000 students having 50,000 conversations where they share their passion for their schools with confidence.

And that image not only makes me smile, it also makes me proud.

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